Time Management Tips [And Free Online Tools] For Entrepreneurs

Time Management Tips

All of us are out there trying to make the most of our time. This is especially true for those of who have a side hustle.

How can you balance the increasing demands on your time as a full-time employee with a side hustle? After you try to fit in all of the work tasks in addition to your personal responsibilities, it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in a day. 

Luckily, you don’t need to spend a dime to stay organized and get things done. There are plenty of free time management tools available.

By identifying and eliminating time-wasters and utilizing smart time-management tips, you can make the most of the time you have. As an entrepreneur, there are many free online tools and resources available to help you navigate the challenges of a busy schedule. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best time management tips out there for busy side hustlers. 

Time Management for Freelancing and Side Hustles

If you’re interested in launching a side hustle, one of the first questions will be, “Where will I find the time?” 

After all, it’s tough to add a side hustle to a 40+ hour a week job and the responsibilities of home.

That’s why time management is so important for entrepreneurs and side hustlers. In this post, we’ll go through some tried-and-true strategies for getting the most out of the time you have. These time management tips will help you to feel more in control of your time and lead you to greater business success. 

Consider Your Why

By this I mean, why do you want to have a side hustle in the first place? 

Do you want to aggressively pay down your student loans? Or save for amazing vacations? Maybe your goal is to save for a down payment on your first home, or simply front-load your retirement accounts at as young an age as possible. Other people’s objective with side hustles is to eventually replace their current career or job with work they enjoy more. 

Your “why” may include parts of all of these reasons, or maybe more that I haven’t mentioned. Whatever your purpose in starting a side hustle is, you’ll create greater success if you nail down that purpose early on. 

Keep your “why” at the forefront and it’ll be easier to weather any setbacks or disappointments you may face as you build your business. 

Related: Retiring Early to Travel the World with Jeremy from GoCurryCracker

Consider Your Side Hustle Options

A time management tip to keep in mind is to figure out how much time you can realistically dedicate to a side hustle. Being honest is important here, as it’ll help you manage your expectations. 

You may decide you can set aside one hour each weeknight to your side hustle. Others may be able to spend 3-4 hours a night, or 20+ hours on the weekends. Only you know what you can handle and still meet all of your work and home obligations. 

Once you’ve determined the amount of time you can give to a second job, hone in on which options might be a good fit. Some side hustles lend themselves easily to picking up an hour or two of work whenever you feel like it, while others need dedicated time on a regular basis. Consider the Steady App to see side hustle options in your area.

Related: 5 Ways to Find Plenty of Extra Time to Make Money

Consider Outsourcing Some Tasks

I know, when you’re just starting out on your entrepreneurial path, you may feel like you have to do it all on your own. And while in some types of freelance work this may be fine, many small businesses eventually need to grow. 

Don’t make the mistake of believing you must handle the entire business by yourself forever. There are likely some tasks that you simply won’t have time for, so it’s essential to know when to hire some help. 

Related: Small Business Finances: The Key Financial Pillars of Building a Start-Up

Email management, customer service, IT services, marketing services, and much more are tasks you can outsource to individuals or companies that specialize in those areas of business. 

It will hurt to spend money on outsourcing services, but in the end, they can do wonders for your earning potential. Plus, they free up time that you could better spend on tasks that grow your business! 

For example, hiring someone to provide managed IT services can be a lifesaver. For many small-business owners, technology issues can be the worst offender for taking up swaths of time you can’t afford to waste. Check out clearfuze.com for more information on their managed IT services.

How to Manage Side Hustle Time

 We all get the same 168 hours in a week, right? Yes! 

However, we all have competing demands on our time and different goals for how we really want to spend that time. 

As a side hustler, you have to balance your growing side hustle with the demands of your regular job and the need to be there for your loved ones. Keeping your objectives at the top of your mind will help solidify your commitment to the side hustle when it gets stressful. 

A smart strategy for time management is to use time blocking, or focused blocks of time, to organize your side hustle hours. 

Time Blocking: How to Do It

If you’re not familiar with the concept of time blocking, here it is: the practice of planning your entire day, with specific “blocks” of time that are earmarked for specific tasks. 

Some people like to block out the entire day, but this is an effective time management tip you can apply solely to your side hustle if you wish. When you use time blocking, you commit to accomplishing certain tasks or fulfilling certain obligations at a particular time. 

Many of us are not laser-focused by nature. Time blocking enables you to bypass tendencies to get distracted or fritter away the time because you’ve already planned what you’ll work on for your side hustle and when. 

Here are a few ultra-simple suggestions for time blocking to carve out side hustle time:

  • Wake up 30-60 minutes earlier 
  • Stay up 30-60 minutes later
  • Work through your lunch break
  • Stay at your job 30-60 minutes after quitting time, but only to work on your side hustle

When I was side hustling, my block of time was always between dinner and bedtime. There was never a question of how I’d use that time because I’d blocked it out in advance for my side hustle. 

Related: Side Hustle Examples and Ideas with Kimberly Palmer of US News

Time Blocking: Benefits

I used to be the person who always said “yes” to requests from other people. Don’t get me wrong, I love being helpful. But spending so much time helping others left me with little time to get my own stuff done. 

Learning the skill of time blocking has empowered me to say “no.” Sometimes, I just have to say no when people ask me to do things because I need to make the time to complete my work. 

Saying no isn’t selfish. When I started saying no, I had more energy and time to focus on my own goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. 

None of us are capable of doing everything. There are plenty of worthy causes that you’ll need to say no to because you just don’t have enough hours in a day to be everything to everyone. Focus on your most important goals and priorities, and you’ll achieve greater success. 

Related: 9 Part-Time Jobs That Pay Well [Better Pay in Less Time]

You know what else time blocking has taught me? To-do lists don’t really work! 

I used to be a die-hard proponent of to-do lists. I’d start off my day with a list a mile long, then look at how much there was to do and think “This is impossible.” Why? Because it was impossible! 

A key fault with to-do lists is that they are just a list in random order of everything you can think of that has to get done. You don’t rank anything by order of importance, so every task looks equally important. 

Time blocking helped me to move my old, traditional to-do list over to my calendar (you can use Google calendar or an old-fashioned paper one). Here are three benefits you’ll see when you make this shift:

  1. You eliminate tasks that aren’t that important. 
  2. You delay tasks that are important, but not urgent. 
  3. You establish set blocks of time to devote to priorities, including your side hustle. 

By utilizing time blocking on a calendar, you free up a lot of mental headspace because you take time to plan in advance, and then you just follow the schedule. 

We’ll get into some free tech tools and apps in a moment, and these can help you organize your calendar and provide notifications and reminders. 

When you’re creating your time blocks, remember your “why”. There will be moments and days when you’re tempted to hit snooze or binge Netflix instead of hustling. Your time blocks, built around your priorities, will help you follow the plan. 

With your own “why” in mind, consider this TED Talk by Laura Vanderkam, on making time for your priorities: 

Biggest Time Wasters in an Entrepreneur’s Life

The last thing you want to do is waste the limited time you have. Here are some major time-wasters you need to avoid as an entrepreneur:

Not Following a Plan

If you think it’s not worth your time to plan your work schedule in advance, think again. Not planning ahead for how you’ll utilize your side-hustle time is a recipe for unfocused, haphazard work. 

Rolling into work in an off-the-cuff manner won’t do you much good. Taking a few minutes either the night before or at the beginning of a new work session to organize your priorities will actually save you time in the long run. 

As we talked about with the time blocking, making a plan ahead of time can be a huge time-saver. If you don’t know which tasks to work on, you’ll waste time getting set up, figuring out what to do first, and getting yourself focused each day. 

Getting Caught in the Small Details

Starting a new business or side hustle can be overwhelming. You tend to wear many hats and may be tempted to do every single thing and manage every little detail, but that can really waste your time. 

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean you have to be good at every aspect of building your business. As soon as you’re able to swing it financially, begin to delegate the tasks you either don’t enjoy or aren’t good at. You’ll reserve more of your energy for your strengths, while an expert in other areas, like bookkeeping or IT, can take care of other day-to-day operational necessities. 

For example, accounting can take up a ton of your time that could be put to better use on creative or big-picture stuff. Bench assigns you a professional bookkeeper to monitor all of your financial accounts so you can focus on other matters. 

Related: Small Business Bookkeeping is a Breeze with Bench

Never Taking a Break

It may sound counter-intuitive, but taking a break can actually help you to become more productive. If you keep burning the candle at both ends, never stopping to rest, you’ll eventually burn out. 

You might need a couple of days away from your business, but even if that’s not a possibility, be sure to build in some time to rest and recharge. Take a walk once in a while, or even just stand up from your desk and look at a different view for a few minutes. It’ll reset your mind and help you to focus better when you return. 

Poor Email Management

Oh, email. This can be one of the most insidious time-wasters for an entrepreneur. 

Part of why email is the bane of many side hustlers’ lives is that it is so essential to your business, yet if you don’t manage your inbox well, you’ll be swamped. While it’s tempting to be on-call 24/7 as a new business owner, checking your email incessantly will make your time disappear with nothing to show for it. 

Just as you schedule meetings and project work, you’ll benefit from scheduling one or two times throughout the day for checking email. Stick to only those windows of time, do what you need to do with the emails you receive and send, and then get back to focusing on other tasks. 

Meetings

Meetings are helpful and oftentimes necessary for running a business. However, when leaders of a company don’t know what they’re doing, meetings can be notorious time-wasters. 

Many times, organizational leaders schedule meetings just because they think it looks good to their superiors, or they have an arbitrary idea of how many meetings are necessary for success. People who don’t need to be a part of a particular meeting all get “invited” to come anyway. Then meetings run over their allotted time slot. All of this results in unhappy employees, because who wants their time wasted? 

You can ensure your meetings are efficient by setting an agenda in advance, with time limits for each portion. You can also try to conduct some meetings via video chat or another tech tool, avoiding the need for in-person meetings that tend to run long. 

Schedule Your Time

Essentially, most time management tips boil down to one piece of advice: schedule the time. Schedule how you’ll spend your time, and stick to that plan as closely as possible. 

Of course, there will be disruptions and unexpected diversions to your time, but with judicious scheduling, you’ll guard against a lot of issues. 

Free Time Management Tools

There are actually a ton of free online time management tools. Here are some that are worthwhile. All are free, at least for a trial period. 

Free Online To-Do Lists

I know I just said that to-do lists don’t work. But in some cases, they may be effective. Here are a few online places to record your to-do lists:

Todoist

Todoist aims to bring clarity and peace to your mind and life. By including your to-do items online, accessible from anywhere, you know you’ll always be able to see what tasks remain for each day.

You can organize your tasks by categories and by order of importance, helping you to focus on priorities. You have the option of delegating some tasks to others, like family members or team members. It also comes with a built-in calendar, and you can sync your todoist account with other organizational apps like Google Calendar and Dropbox.

See more about Todoist here

Evernote

Evernote is a premier note-taking app. When you want to record thoughts, research, ideas, and more for your business and personal life, Evernote is there. You can even capture voice notes and pictures as well as regular text notes.

Sign up with Evernote here.  

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is another smart tool for to-do tasks and reminders, and it syncs to all your devices. If you’re looking for something compatible with other programs like Google Assistant and Todoist, this is it

Check out Remember the Milk

Nirvana

Nirvana helps you with to-do lists, project management, and focusing on priorities. Part of their goal is to motivate you to focus on the right project at the right time.

You can create projects, set up recurring to-do lists, and more. They also have a feature where you can decide to “engage now” or “snooze” an item until you have the time or energy to do it properly.

Here’s more about Nirvana

Online Calendars (and more)

Acuity Scheduling

Acuity Scheduling can drive your business because it makes scheduling appointments a breeze for you and your clients! Clients can view your availability, schedule appointments online, and complete intake forms online. It even sends them automatic confirmations, reminders, and follow-up notifications. 

As a phone-averse consumer, I can tell you I am 100% more likely to put off important tasks if they require me to make an actual phone call. I’m much more prompt to set up an appointment online, so this scheduling tool would make me a very happy customer. 

Acuity can automatically update your calendars in platforms such as Google Calendar, Outlook, iCloud, and Microsoft Office 365. In addition to the ease of calendar organization, Acuity Scheduling can accept payments via Stripe, Square, and PayPal. 

Sign up for Acuity Scheduling here. Their basic monthly plan, with client self-scheduling, is free. More features are included in their paid plans, which start at $15/month.  

Calendly

Calendly is another trusted online scheduling platform. Like with Acuity Scheduling, Calendly enables your clients to schedule appointments and your team members to schedule meetings–all online. It integrates to automatically update your Google Calendar, Office 365 Calendar, and iCloud calendar. 

Calendly offers a free 14-day trial, after which time you can continue with the free version or upgrade to either an $8/month or $12/month plan that offers more robust features.

Learn more about Calendly here

Google Calendar

Google Calendar allows you to create events, set reminders, connect with others. This tool does it all and if you’re already a Gmail user, it makes the most sense to go with this calendar. There are a ton of ways to use your Google Calendar to help organize your life and business.

Check out Google Calendar here.

Free Online Time Tracking

I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t estimate very accurately how I’m using my time! Fortunately, there are several useful apps that can provide clear data on how much time you’re spending on various tasks, helping you identify problem areas or time-wasters. 

RescueTime

RescueTime functions in the background to record your activities on your desktop, mobile phone, or tablet and show you where your time is going.

Many of us feel our time is out of our control, and RescueTime can help you reclaim the feeling of control. Managing your time can boost your productivity as a business owner as well as your team members’ productivity. 

On RescueTime, you can set up goals and alerts, arrange for distraction blocking, view weekly trends and reports, and more! Like other time trackers, RescueTime offers a free-for-life option that gives you the basics. It also provides paid plans for individuals or teams, including a free trial so you can try out the features before paying for anything.

Check out RescueTime here

Toggl 

Toggl offers free time tracking, which shines a light on how productive you’re being with your time.

It integrates seamlessly across all of its platforms, so you can start timing an activity on your desktop, but then stop the timer on your smartphone, for example. All entries will sync automatically to provide an accurate picture of how much time you (or team members) spend on various activities and websites.

Toggl’s basic plan is always free, but you can also upgrade to a $9/month or $18/month plan if needed.

Here’s more about Toggl

Free Online Project Management Tools

Asana

Asana is a popular task-management platform for collaborative teams. With Asana, you can help team members get and stay organized by assigning tasks, creating priorities, and setting deadlines. 

Team leaders can monitor projects throughout each stage of the process. Asana also includes visual project plans that enable you to check up on every step of project completion, making any necessary adjustments to goals or deadlines. 

Plus, you know those mundane manual tasks that every business has to handle? Asana’s automation can manage those time-consuming tasks that don’t require human interaction, reducing human error and wasted time. Asana works with Web, iOS, and Android, and their basic plan for up to 15 team members is completely free.

Learn more about Asana here

Trello

Trello is another trusted project management tool for all of your business or personal needs. They use boards, lists, and cards to organize and prioritize a team’s tasks. 

Team leaders and members can easily add comments, attachments, due dates, and more to your Trello cards. The platform also integrates with other apps your team is already using, and the app will sync across all types of devices. 

Trello also includes workflow automation through Butler. This helps remove the stress of monotonous, repetitive tasks that have to get done. You can set up calendar commands, due date commands, rule-based triggers, and custom card or board buttons. 

Get all of these great features to streamline your project management for free with Trello!

Sign up for a free Trello account here

MeisterTask 

Looking for another tool to manage your teams and projects online? MeisterTask is another solid option for you. It operates via Web, Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android to combine project creation, planning, and execution. 

MeisterTask’s attractive interface is fully customizable. Their Kanban-style boards are similar to Trello’s, enabling you to set up streamlined processes and automation for the most tedious tasks. It’s ideal for remote teams working collaboratively on projects. 

You’ll create projects in your Editorial Calendar, along with a workflow. Feel free to use their predefined workflow or customize your own workflow to fit each project’s needs. MeisterTask also offers seamless integration with many other apps including Slack, Google Drive, and Dropbox. 

Some perks that MeisterTask provides are built-in time tracking, custom fields, recurring tasks, checklists, and automations. They tailor your boards to include only the essential tools, avoiding the clutter that comes from unnecessary features. 

MeisterTask, like Asana and Trello, is free with their Basic plan.

Get started with MeisterTask here

Mileage Tracking

 

5 Time Management Tips

We’re all getting busier, it seems. We cram more and more into each day. Sometimes I feel like time is managing me, not the other way around. It can be frustrating.

Here are some common time management tips or productivity tips to keep in mind. Most have been covered already in this article, but this may be a useful refresher! 

1. Create a Priority List

First, take time right now to create a simple to-do list. Write down everything you need to get done. Be sure to add things that need to be completed now, as well as things that can wait a while. Some people suggest using a mind map to get everything out.

Now that you have a list of things to do, assign a priority to each one. Use a simple “ABC/123” format to get this done.

“A” can represent your most urgent, most important items. Use “B” for those things that are important, but might not be urgent. Lastly, use “C” to identify things that aren’t that important or urgent, but that you’d like to get done, time permitting.

The “1,2,3,…” can be used to further prioritize the items within each category.

2. Fill Up Your Calendar

Next, take your list and fill up your daily calendar with these items. Your calendar should already have your appointments and meetings, so just fill in the gaps with these to-do items. Use a conservative approach and be realistic about the time it will take to complete your tasks. Build in plenty of buffer for breaks, emergencies, and interruptions.

3. Plan for Tomorrow Today

Be sure to build in a few minutes at the end of your day to plan for the next. During this time, reference your prioritized to-do list (to note which items you haven’t completed) and fill out the next day’s activity.

4. Eat the Biggest Frog First

When putting the to-do items on your calendar, be conscious of when you’re most productive. Since most of us are most productive first thing in the morning, it’s best to schedule your most difficult tasks then. But you know when you’re most productive. So, plan to work on your most difficult tasks then.

5. Fight Back Against Barriers

Lastly, make a quick list of your biggest time management barriers and decide on an action to fight back.

Common barriers include interruptions, lack of organization, perfectionism, inability to say no, etc. Barriers can’t be totally prevented, but we can take steps to avoid them or at least minimize their impact.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, time management is a struggle for most of us. But thankfully, there are plenty of free resources and tools available to help you manage your time efficiently. 

Do you use any of these tools, or know of more free online time management tools? I’d love to hear your thoughts on time management in the comments below.

time management tips

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon.

He created Part-Time Money® back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence.

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  1. JimmyWills says

    Nice article Philip, I’d recommend to try Proofhub time management tool as well. Must deserves a place in your list. Highly recommended 🙂

  2. chaitalisinha8 says

    Great list for sure still I find that a great and simple hassle free tool that I liked a lot has been Replicon’s cloud based project time management software. It is pretty hassle free and can be quickly implemented too. I think you should definitely include it in your nice list.

  3. Nice list. Time management is more efficient if you rely on a tool that tracks your time accurately.I have to agree that all the software listed above are great time monitoring tool especially if you manage a team or running an outsourcing business. But I think you missed something to the list, although all these software are just the same but “Time Doctor” has a unique way to monitor our time. The major feature of Time Doctor that is not available in other software is the priority feature and the ability to know how much of the day a person is focusing on their priorities. It’s one thing to reduce wasted time such as visiting Facebook or Youtube.

  4. Brian Logan says

    Thank you for this great list. I will try some of these for sure!

  5. Tiffany Willis says

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about RememberTheMilk. I think I’m going to check it out.

  6. I’m going to go crazy and post a recommendation for a competitor. If you want to know how you are actually spending your time (which is key to understanding how to use it more effectively) TimeSnapper is a very good free tool.

    I do actually prefer the tool I wrote myself (Qlockwork), but then I would wouldn’t I? And that’s not free.

  7. Cool list…I’m a paper calendar guy myself but trying to get more high tech.

  8. Great list, I have a real problem with time management mostly because I want to do everything and dont prioritize my goals. I have tried a number of the things you listed here and havent improved much but I dont really put a ton of effort into it..I dont have time for that 😉

    RescueTime is pretty awesome though in tracking, I like to see how I compare with others.